Review by rapt00r

"Who Let the Dogs Out"

Let's take a trip back in memory lane...

Sunday June 19, 05
I've read and heard several great things about Nintendogs, but that game just doesn't interest me at all. I might end up buying it if it receives amazing reviews, but the concept of a virtual dog doesn't appeal to me.

Friday July 22, 05
Yesterday I received an e-mail from Nintendo regarding their upcoming Nintendo DS game, Nintendogs. As I've mentioned in my journal before, I have zero interest in this game. I don't like dogs. I don't want to pet them in real life, so why would I want to in a video game?

And now, please allow me eat my words.

I received my free copy of Nintendogs from Nintendo and I'm addicted. There are three different versions of the game: Chihuahua & Friends, Dachshund & Friends and Lab & Friends. Nintendo sent me Lab & Friends (which would be my preference of the three) along with a letter about the game, a certificate for my new "pet" and paw print tissue paper. What the package did not include was an instruction booklet or case. Way to be cheap Nintendo. Although I shouldn't really complain after I received a thirty dollar game for free.

The game starts off with you looking for a dog at the kennel. The US version of Lab & Friends features a Labrador retriever, miniature schnauzer, toy poodle, Pembroke Welsh corgi, miniature pinscher and shiba inu. Obviously the other versions will feature different breeds. Each of the dogs look very realistic. You'll initially start out with $1,000.00 to purchase a dog and supplies. I chose the Labrador retriever.

After you choose your dog you depart for your new home. The dog is uncomfortable in his new environment, so it is your job to pet him with the stylus until he grows fond of you. At that time, you are allowed to name your dog by saying it three times. Yes, the game supports voice recognition. After the third time, the dog will recognize his name and come to you when you call it. I named mine Mario.

Now it's time to teach your dog tricks. Some of the tricks you can teach the dogs include how to sit, lay down, spin (chase the tail), jump and shake hands. Each trick requires a few initial swipes of the stylus on the dog. For example, to teach your dog how to sit, you must first call him over to you. Pet him on the head a few times and then make a downward motion with the stylus. Your dog will now be sitting. In the upper right-hand corner of the screen, there will be a cloud with a light bulb inside. Touch this with your stylus and say "sit" into the microphone. Repeat three times and your dog will learn how to sit. From now on you can simply say "sit" and he will sit. The same methods work for each trick and there is a trainer's guide to tell you how to perform many of the tricks.

You can also play with your dog. You start off with a tennis ball and bubbles, along with a few other items for the two of you to play with. You can pick up the ball using the stylus and throw it across the screen with a quick flick. Your dog will then go running after it and start biting on it. Call his name and he'll return to you with the ball. After a little fight, you'll be able to grab the ball out of his mouth and start over again. For the bubbles, you're given the bubble wand we all remember from our childhood. Simply blow into the microphone and bubbles will appear across the screen. Your curious dog will stare at them in amazement and even chase after them, attempting to pop them. You can also purchase additional items from the store, such as a Frisbee, which will be useful later on in the game.

Once your dog is good with tricks and the Frisbee, you'll want to enter him into various competitions, which include obedience, agility and Frisbee skills. Obedience is obviously how well your dog listens to your when you issue a command. The agility competition is similar to real life dog shows, such as running through tunnels and jumping over bars. I think the Frisbee competition is self-explanatory. This is where you'll win some money to purchase more supplies or other dogs.

Another option is to take your dog for a walk. There is a specified distance that you can take your dog, but the city is fairly large, allowing for several different path options. While walking, you can visit the dog park where your dog can play. Also, you will occasionally run into other dogs. The two dogs will play with each other for a little while and then you'll continue on your way. If your dog really likes you, he may give you a present while walking. For example, my dog found and gave me an orange dog collar. Your dog will also use the street as his personal toilet. Don't forget to pick up these little bundles of joy with the stylus, because it's against the law if you don't. You can take your dog for as many walks as you want during the day, but it's a good idea to wait at least thirty minutes between each trip.

Of course you'll have to feed and take care of your dog. You will need to make frequent visits to the store to purchase various supplies, such as dry food, water and dog shampoo. There is a status screen which will tell you when your dog is hungry, thirsty and dirty, along with how much time you've spent with the dog and what the last thing the dog ate was. To feed your dog, simply click into your supplies and select the food. A dish will appear on the screen with food and your dog will immediately go to it. The same method will work for giving your dog water to drink. Walking will usually make your dog thirsty and sometimes hungry.

Shampooing is a little more complicated. First you'll have to select the shampoo from your inventory. Next, you'll have to scrub in the shampoo, making sure you apply it all over your dog and then rinse it out. After you're done, you will need to take out your brush (you do not start with this item; you will need to purchase one from the store) and comb his entire coat. If you really want to spoil your dog, you can take him to a doggy spa, where they will pamper him for you.

In addition to toys and supplies, you can also purchase other items like dog collars or bows at the store. There is even an option to remodel the house for the dog. Also, there is a second hand store where you can sell items you no longer want or need.

Nintendogs includes a wi-fi mode. You can "record" your dog barking and allow it to play while playing the game. If someone else in the area (a three hundred foot range) is playing the game, they'll hear your recording and you will be able to have your dogs play together. There is even a friend list in the game so you can add people you enjoyed playing with.

Like Animal Crossing, the game runs in real time. One hour in the game is one hour in real life. While your system is powered off, your dog will be patiently awaiting your return, and hopefully will not starve to death. Of course with a game like this, there is no ending. It's completely open ended.

Overall I'd have to say I'm shocked by Nintendogs. I never expected a dog simulation to be a video game I could not get enough of. I'm sure some of you are laughing at this, but don't make the same mistake I did by knocking the game before you try it out for yourself. Nintendogs is absolutely a must have for all Nintendo DS owners, and one of the top three or four for games for the system. If you don't have a DS, the game should be playable at DS demo kiosks soon. Nintendogs will be released for the Nintendo DS on August 22nd.


Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/04/05

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